Digging for Your Authentic Self: What’s Important

Men are not free when they are doing just what they like. Men are only free when they are doing what the deepest self likes. And there is getting down to the deepest self! It takes some diving.” DH Lawrence

If you prefer to listen

Over the years, society pulls us away from our true selves. We pile on layer after layer of roles we need to play, expectations we need to meet, how we need to look, and how we should feel. When we don’t shed the expectations that no longer work, our authentic self gets buried deeper and deeper. We are so accustomed to the identities thrust upon us that we don’t even realize we are wearing layers of masks. We begin to think that is who we are. But it’s not who we are; it’s who we were needed to be at some point in time. It is who we have become to fit in and belong.

Sometimes it feels more comfortable to live the roles expected of me. Often on the path to discovering my authentic self, I have questioned why I am doing this. It is hard to strip away the layers of defenses I have built up to keep myself safe. But as DH Lawrence said, I need to dive deep to get there. Then I remember that I am plagued by feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt when I am not living authentically. Those feelings drain my energy and keep me from living the life I want to live.

If I look back to my first marriage, I spent years trying to be who I thought he wanted me to be.  But after having kids, that got to be too exhausting.  I couldn’t be who I thought I was supposed to be. And I was not even right about what he wanted me to be. Today with each of us living more our authentic selves, my daughter-in-law said she could not picture us ever being married; we are so different.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we actually are.” Brene Brown

When I am not living authentically, I feel like I have a hole in my soul, and chocolate doesn’t help fill it. I feel the need to keep striving for something more. When I can live with who I am at my core, not who the world told me to be, that hole does feel so large. And life is not so exhausting. I think four steps helped me uncover my authentic self. These steps included soul searching, inner dialogue, and small group discussions at my Meditation Teacher Training. Over the next four sessions, we will look at:

  1. Discovering What’s Important
  2. Charting Your North Star
  3. Mapping Your Route
  4. Navigating Obstacles

I will share what I learned to be true for me, hoping that you can use it to discover what is true for you.

What’s Important?

As we dig down to our authentic self, we want to look below the surface. We start by clarifying our values, defining what is important to us.  When I started on this path in 2017, what I thought was important was colored by expectations of society, work, family, and friends. I thought it was essential to be a hard worker and get things done. I strived to become an expert so I could be seen as smart and look good. I would not let negative emotions get in the way of getting things done, and I certainly would not bother someone with my problems. It was my job to take care of others.


In this reflection, we will take a moment to reflect on “What You Were Told is Important” in your life. Don’t worry about whether or not it is true. What expectations have been placed on you by society, your boss or co-workers, your family, and your friends? When you become aware of these expectations, jot them down in the table under “What I Was Told Was Important.”

When I looked at “What I Was Told Was Important.” I realized that what I had been living by was no longer useful.  Most of what I thought was important came from family, friends, work, and society. But looking at “What I Was Told Was Important,” I realized that no longer served me well. I could never work hard enough, be smart enough, look good enough or do enough for others.  I was like the donkey with a carrot suspended from a stick just in front of him. Each time I moved, so did the goal.

I looked at how vital each of these expectations was to my happiness, and I found that they were obstacles. So, I contemplated on “What Really is Important” to me, what would make my heart sing.  Much of what I unearthed was the opposite of what others had defined for me. Instead of working hard, I want to enjoy life and put relationships over accomplishments. I want to accept myself and my circumstances rather than strive to look good and hide negative emotions. And I want to take care of myself so I don’t burn out trying to take care of others.


Look at “What I Was Told Was Important” and consider whether this is important to you or if society or someone else led you to believe this is important. Ask yourself if this will help you to lead the life you want to live. If it is fundamental to your happiness, add it to the column “What Really is Important.” If not, think about what would serve you well today and in the future. What is paramount to you at this stage of your life? Jot down your thoughts in the “What is Really Important” column.

If you are having trouble getting started, look at my example below.

Compare what you were told was important with what really is important to you right now. You may notice a few disconnects. We will use these insights in our next session as we chart our North Star.